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M.10 Does religion start wars? What about religious terrorism?

Enemy & War

The Encyclopaedia of Wars claims that for less than 7% of all wars religion was the primary cause. Still, there are too many examples of religious violence in our world, also committed by Christians. However, this is not the Will of God. Conflicts and war are always the result of human sin and selfishness of individuals or groups. Whoever preaches that God wants violence or war is greatly wrong!

Jesus is not only against every form of war, he even taught to love our enemies. The official teaching of the Church searches to contribute to peace in any way. War is not always inevitable; it is always a defeat for humanity.

Religion is often used as an excuse, but it rarely is the true cause. Sadly, religion has been abused, but God never wants violence or war, only peace.
The Wisdom of the Church

What must be done to avoid war?

Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. To this end it is particularly important to avoid: the accumulation and sale of arms which are not regulated by the legitimate authorities; all forms of economic and social injustice; ethnic and religious discrimination; envy, mistrust, pride and the spirit of revenge. Everything done to overcome these and other disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war [CCCC 486].

What is the danger of modern weapons?

"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation" (Gaudium et Spes 80). A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes [CCC 2314].

What does the Church have to say about the arms race?

The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation [CCC 2315]. "The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured" (Gaudium et Spes 81) [CCC 2329].

This is what the Popes say

“Christians have often denied the Gospel; yielding to a mentality of power, they have violated the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and shown contempt for their cultures and religious traditions: be patient and merciful towards us, and grant us your forgiveness!” [John Paul II, Prayer for Forgiveness, 12 March 2000].

“No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity” [Pope John Paul II , to the diplomatic corps, 13 Jan. 2003].

“’Never again war!’. No, never again war, which destroys the lives of innocent people, teaches how to kill, throws into upheaval even the lives of those who do the killing and leaves behind a trail of resentment and hatred, thus making it all the more difficult to find a just solution of the very problems which provoked the war” [Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 52].